This past May, Munro Galloway and Dushko Petrovich presented You Must Change Your Life, a two-person exhibition of their work at Soloway titled after the closing line of Rilke’s poem “Archaic Torso of Apollo.” The exhibition was accompanied by a reader published by the gallery composed of excerpts of several texts selected by the artists, ranging from Rosalind Krauss’s “Formless” to an appendix from the Journals of Lewis and Clark. I spoke to them about their art and exhibition.
It is perhaps telling that the first piece in the exhibition Glenn Ligon: AMERICA, the most comprehensive exhibition of the artist’s work to date, is not one of the text-based paintings for which he is best known, but “Hands” (1996), a massive canvas tacked to the wall of the exhibition’s entrance with pushpins, bearing the image of outstretched palms against a black background. Drawn from a mass-media photograph of Benjamin Chavis and Louis Farrakhan’s 1995 Million Man March, enlarged to the point of degradation and then screenprinted, what appears here is a copy of a copy of a copy, an image that can no longer articulate what it once represented.
According to Eric Doeringer, the artist-curator of I Like the Art World and the Art World Likes Me, the exhibition’s title—a nod to Joseph Beuys’s 1974 performance “I Like America and America Likes Me”—is meant to convey the “fraught relationship between emerging artists and the art-world establishment,” one marked by a simultaneous desire to criticize the art world’s excesses and to be recognized by it. Art about the institutions of art, both physical and discursive, is hardly a new phenomenon, but unlike Marcel Broodthaers and Hans Haacke, cited by Doeringer as predecessors for the work included in this exhibition, what emerges most clearly here is not “institutional critique” but a sense of anxiety or anger about the artists’ own marginalization and lack of mainstream success.
Walking around the two-pier behemoth that is today’s Armory Show, it’s hard to imagine that this was once a scrappy upstart hotel fair. Over the course of the week, I heard various people speak nostalgically about what the Armory had been like in its early years, as if it had been some prelapsarian moment before the art world discovered capitalism. However, in a 1995 Frieze magazine survey, co-founder Pat Hearn stated bluntly that “the art fair is simply an effort to move the product in whatever way possible.”
Ridykeulous, founded by artists Nicole Eisenman and A.L. Steiner in 2005, describes itself as an effort to “subvert, sabotage, and overturn the language commonly used to define feminist and lesbian art,” primarily through exhibitions, performances, and zines. Attacking the marginalization of queer and feminist art as “alternative” cultures, they insist upon participating in mainstream dialogues about art and culture; in adopting the role of curators and organizing exhibitions, Steiner and Eisenman forcefully insert themselves and their collaborators into the spaces, both literally and figuratively, of the art establishment. Though not all of the artists in Readykeulous are female, nor do all identify as queer, they share an interest in disrupting the status quo.
The Museum of Art and Design, New York’s The Global Africa Project makes an audacious claim: to present the art, design, architecture, and craft of the contemporary African diaspora. Given that Africa is the world’s second largest continent, with a population of over one billion dispersed among 54 distinct countries—never mind the millions of people of African descent living elsewhere—any attempt to survey its production and influence seems impossible. However, the curators — Dr. Lowery Stokes Sims, formerly director of the Studio Museum in Harlem and currently the Charles Bronfman Curator at the Museum of Arts and Design, and Dr. Leslie King-Hammond, founding director of the Center for Race and Culture at Maryland Institute College of Art — have embraced the unwieldiness of the notion of “Africa,” creating an exhibition that intentionally raises more questions than it answers.